Nobuhiro Suwa, one of the contemporary Japanese filmmakers most fascinated with European culture, gets to grips with an essay film – half documentary, half fiction – about the (im)possibility of recovering the past by means of the impossible remake of one of French cinema’s mythical titles: Hiroshima mon amour.
The second film by filmmaker Kazuyoshi Kumakiri premiered in the Forum section of the Berlin Festival in 2001. A delicate tale about the unexpected relationship between a lonely young boy who has seen very little of the world and a girl who has seen too much.
The debut by the Japanese moviemaker of Korean origin, Sang-il Lee is a fresco of today’s Japan seen through the interwoven experiences of three people of different ages, yet all marked by despair, loneliness and their sad fate.
Having confirmed himself internationally with his striking film Tetsuo (1989), Shinya Tsukamoto delved back into his sick and claustrophobic atmospheres to narrate a fable packed with eroticism, guilt and passion: a mysterious man starts to harass a married woman.
Although Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a prestigious filmmaker known for his fantasy movies, he competed at the Cannes Festival with this film of realist overtones, subtle chronicle of the confusion felt by Japanese youths and the lack of direction suffered by a society that has lost its role models.
A biting satire on Japan’s "bubble economy" in the shape of a minimalist comedy: Daisuke and Hisako decide to start a new life on a remote island when a ruinous business leaves them up to their necks in debt. But life in the quiet community will not be as idyllic as they expected. The film was selected by the Rotterdam Festival in 2003.
A sensitive female portrayal set around a woman isolated from the world, incapable of feeling anything but the vibration of a mobile phone she never answers. However, a chance meeting with a stranger will see her embark on a journey of emotional and sexual self-discovery.
Based on the Aum sect’s attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, Akihiko Shiota constructs a parable that endeavours to take a closer look at the social phenomenon of religious cults. Shunning theatricality, he very delicately tells the tale of a young boy who has spent his whole life hidden away in a sect and who must now face up to the world.
Disabled actor Sumida Masakiyo stars in this cruel, comical and ironical, but always incredibly human tale: Sumida, a young boy with limited motor functions, falls in love with a student who has volunteered to care for him; but the girl is attracted to Sumida’s best friend. Premiered at the Rotterdam Festival in 2003.
Best Film Award-winner at the Pia Film Festival, paradise of independent Japanese cinema, this debut by director Izumi Takahashi portrays the claustrophobic chronicle of the breakdown of a couple’s relationship, filmed as implacably as it is empathetically, with as much precision as sensibility.
Masahiro Kobayashi took his inspiration from a true event for this film, competitor at the Cannes Festival: the kidnap of activist Nahoko Takoto by Islamic terrorists. However, the real subject of the film is the intransigence of Japanese society and how she was judged simply because she had survived.
Kenji Uchida won the Young Critics Award at the Cannes Festival thanks to this ingenious romantic comedy narrated from the different points of view of those involved. A boy-meets-girl story that becomes increasingly more complicated, because life is never as simple as it is in the movies.
A stark and sincere autobiographical documentary in which one of Japan’s most prestigious female directors, Naomi Kawase, reflects on the cycles of life and death through the figure of her aged grandmother and the birth of her own son.
Matsuyama Kenichi, a popular young Japanese film star, headlines this tale of sexual awakening and sentimental confusion in a student who begins an affair with his professor, twenty years his senior. A love story observed from a clinical distance by director Nami Iguchi in order to capture its different overtones with greater precision.
The Japanese Red Army was one of the most active and redoubtable terrorist groups of the 70s. At the age of 72, veteran filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu confronted the task of telling the tale of an armed group that he knew only too well. Archive footage and reconstructions with actors compose this extensive chronicle of that episode of modern Japanese history.
Bullying at schools and colleges is one of the red-hot subjects that plague today’s Japanese society. The actor and director Hiromasa Hirosue competed at the Rotterdam Festival with this film that addresses the subject without histrionics, approaching the victims of this deplorable social phenomenon with decency and respect.
One of the most outstanding representatives of the so-called "Japanese new wave" of the 90s, Shinji Aoyama, reflects in this film, premiered at the Venice Festival, on the nature of family ties. Young Kenji has formed his own family; but running into the mother who abandoned him as a child changes everything.
Sion Sono is probably the most extreme and unpredictable of today’s Japanese directors, and many consider this film, award-winner at the Berlin Festival, to be his masterpiece: a tale of love with epic hues that unfurls as it develops over colossal footage with space for everything: art, religion, sex, the family and a healthy catalogue of eccentricities.
Ryusuke Hamaguchi competed in 2008 in the New Directors section of the San Sebastian Festival with this debut, a movie in the purest of independent film spirits: a shrewd study of relations through the story of a couple on the point of getting married overshadowed by unfaithfulness.
The prestigious documentary-maker Kazuhiro Soda breaks with this film one of Japanese society’s great taboos: their reticence to talk about the problem of mental illnesses. Shot over a one month period in the Okayama psychiatric hospital, this documentary, premiered at the Berlin Festival, takes an in-depth look at the everyday lives of different patients, victims of their suicidal tendencies and their fear of society.
Premiered at the Berlin Festival, this film by Isao Yukisada is a sharp psychological study of four flatmates. Their lives seem to be routine and uneventful until the appearance of a strange boy who highlights the fragility of the system they live in. Who is the fifth occupant of the flat? Could he be the serial killer who has been marauding the neighbourhood?
"Yellow Kid" was a popular American comic character brought back to life by a Japanese manga artist in the 21st century: a street kid turned boxer, a hero for society’s outcast. But when a young boy takes inspiration from the figure to make his dream come true, the difference between reality and expectations can be very painful. A film selected by the Rotterdam Festival in 2010.
A chamber piece on the complex sentimental relationships between four characters, shot with a budget equivalent to the price of buying a second-hand car over several weekends, with actors improvising their dialogues. A surprising film, despite its apparent limitations, which competed at the Rotterdam Festival in 2011.
Takahisa Zeze has become a cult figure on the Japanese independent film scene. This is probably his most ambitious film, and it premiered at the Berlin Festival in 2011. An extensive fresco of today’s Japanese society intertwining the stories of characters tormented by vengeance, adultery, greed, love and the need for redemption.
Sawako, a woman suffering from a professional and sentimental crisis, returns to the place of her birth to take care of the family business. A delightfully feminine portrait, packed with tenderness and humour, bolstered by the splendid work of the leading lady, Hikari Mitsushima. The film premiered at Tokyo’s Pia Film Festival in 2009.
A tale of friendship between two men of very different character plunges us into the community of Brazilian-Japanese immigrants, their contradictory sentiments, and the way the express themselves through hip-hop, but also into that proletarian world not usually shown in Japanese cinema. A film that competed at the Locarno Festival in 2011.
Adaptation of a bestselling novel by Misumi Kubo, one of the great revelations of new Japanese erotic literature, this film by Yuki Tanada explores the relations of several people with sex and sentiments as they try to overcome tedium, frustration, loneliness and desperation.
As if it were a high school version of Rashomon, this film by the always imaginative Daihachi Yoshida narrates a strange incident from different points of view: Kirishima, star of the volleyball club, has disappeared and the hierarchical structure of the institute is threatened. The enigma swings between freak comedy and immersion in the labyrinths of adolescent mentality.
Filmmaker Toshi Fujiwara journeys into the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the afflicted Fukushima nuclear power station. Speaking with residents who are preparing to comply with the government's order to evacuate the zone, Fujiwara elicits testimony of their dedication to the past and uncertainty about the future. A documentary selected by the Berlin Festival.
A sombre drama set in the harsh world of the Japanese proletariat, always impotent against the shenanigans of the economic powers behind the industrial complexes. The tale of a woman who loses her husband in a work accident is the basis for a film premiered at the Berlin Festival and which follows in the footsteps of the great Japanese film classics of the 50s and 60s.
Koji Fukada pays homage to the cinema of Eric Rohmer thanks to this tale following with exquisite delicacy the awakening of a young girl who, before starting university, heads for a sleepy coastal town to spend the summer with her aunt. A delightful song to sensory pleasure, but also a reflection on the let-downs and pain that lie in wait on the path of life.
Shot in the spectacular landscapes of the Iya region, in southern Japan, a poetic fable about a man who flees the hustle and bustle of the big city, only to find that nature lives under the threat of modern life. At the age of 28, Tetsuichiro Tsuta shot this wise and mature movie that has been compared to the work of the great masters of Japanese cinema.
One of the great revelations of Japanese cinema of the 90s, Sabu makes his peculiar tribute to horror film classics with this black and white fantasy on the Japan of the future in which zombies are domesticated and work as servants. But over and above pure horror cinema, Sabu constructs a macabre and disturbing social satire.
Mipo Oh is one of the most remarkable screenwriters and filmmakers of contemporary Japanese cinema. In this, her second film, she narrates with particular tact a beautiful and bleak love story that comes to light among the ruins of a society where all hope seems impossible.
In recent years the Fukushima catastrophe has given rise to numerous documentaries approaching the subject from different angles. But Makoto Shinozaki prefers to use fictional tools for this fable with fantastic elements where two women, a professor of psychology and her student, try to come to grips with Japanese society’s enormous trauma.